The Secret in the Wings – Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA.
November 16, 2015
Review submitted by Lily Cunicelli of Westtown School
With the bang of a basement door, the audience is led into the whimsical, mysterious world of some of Grimm’s lesser-known fairytales. Complete with storytelling ogres, unamused princesses, and a startlingly frequent theme of cannibalism, there is never a dull moment in The Secret in the Wings, written by Mary Zimmerman.
The show takes its viewers on an exciting journey through numerous interconnected fables, all told to a young girl named Heidi (Saria Rosenhaj) by a solemn ogre (Matthew Norden). The characters materialize onstage to bring the tales to life, each one ending just before the characters’ fates are revealed.
The cast of Abington Friends did an excellent job of bringing each story to life with energetic and expressive movements, always keeping the audience at the edge of their seat. Their interactions with the set and props were especially impressive, using everyday household items to liven otherwise slower scenes. The ensemble’s use of bold repetition of lines and gestures made the fairytales stick with the viewers long after the show had ended. Although the song sung in the middle of the show was difficult to hear at times, the cast kept the audience informed of the story through the cast’s gestures and actions.
Some particular standouts in the cast were Cameron Hodges (Andrew), whose bold and zestful movements onstage created a strong connection between the audience and the actors which was held throughout the entirety of the show. Nicole Morris (the Princess Who Couldn’t Laugh) made the audience roar with laughter by doing just the opposite, using her snappy, dry humor very effectively. Danny Rothberg (Alleleira’s Father) kept the show going in a wide range of emotions, from laughter to sadness to disgust within minutes, and Drew Jacobson (Ambassador) kept the viewers informed through his clear narration during memorable scenes. The show as a whole was incredibly ensemble-oriented, yet each and every member of the cast upheld the energy throughout without ever letting it drop.
The eye-popping set and colorful use of lighting greatly complemented the ethereal, dreamlike stories. Even better was the use of many different elements- such as fake snow, voiceover, song, or interactive props- to make the show so memorable. The sound and lighting cues were fairly tight, and the simple yet effective costumes helped to illustrate the show’s fairytale qualities.
All in all, the dark and eccentric world of The Secret in the Wings is a roller coaster of laughs, surprise, and even fright, and most definitely a show worth while.
Review submitted by Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School
Abington Friends School’s production of The Secret in the Wings reminds us that the original Grimm’s fairly tales are hardly kids stuff. Unlike the sanitized versions presented to today’s children, the seven tales presented in this bold, captivating, and oddly humorous show reflect the dark side of human nature, complete with incest, infanticide, and cannibalism.
The Secret in the Wings, a one act play written by Mary Zimmerman and first produced in 1991, presents a central Beauty and the Beast inspired story and six Brothers Grimm/European folk tales. The first half of the six shorter stories are told, each interrupted at the point of maximum despair. The second half of each is then picked up and told in reverse order. This structure is both inspired and intentionally confusing: in an interview, Ms. Zimmerman said, “It is good to get a little lost sometimes, to lose the trail of breadcrumbs in the forest” (mccarter.org).
Abington Friends School masterfully transported their audience back to the time children learned that love and wit could protect them from a world full of danger.
Matthew Norden, as the narrator/tail-trailing ogre, was able to brilliantly connect very disjointed stories and soon the tail became a tale. Saria Rosenhaj, as Heidi, perfectly captured the qualities of a child, particularly, in this production, fear. Eli Russell and Rebecca Macey, as Heidi’s parents, were hilarious, chattering back and forth about the traffic they might encounter on the way to a dinner party rather than the ogre babysitter
With no clear leads, the show required a huge number of talented performers. Fortunately Abington Friends had just that. Cameron Hodges, as a suitor whose life depended on making the princess laugh, dexterously jumped around like a frog; he failed with the princess, but certainly cracked up the audience. The three princes in-sync jabbering about carefree royal life was clever and fun.
While the entire show took place in a basement, the set proved to be more complicated than it first looked. Whether the actors were grabbing props from who-knows-where or popping out in random places, the set design brilliantly complemented the acting. Children’s props, so simple and appropriate for the subject matter, were used to create amazing illusions, like beheadings using rubber balls and cones.
Abington Friends presented a fabulous evening of fairy tales way too scary for children.